When Gratitude is Detrimental.

Gratitude. I am all about it. For me, it is an intentional, daily practice. On those not so great days, it takes me out of the negative spiral that often manifests, and helps me to reframe and refocus. It allows me to stand back from the “negative” happenings in my life and extract the lessons and insights. Gratitude helps me to evolve, expand, and move ever closer to the person I want to be in this life.

Gratitude is the foundation of clarity.

Intentional gratitude is incredibly powerful and transformative, and lies at the crux of authentic wellbeing, if appropriately timed.

The transformative power of gratitude can only take root if correctly placed on your path of self-evolution.

If misused, gratitude can be hugely detrimental to your growth. It can block you and keep you in an insincere self-space. The problem with gratitude arises when it is used to mask the impacts of painful life events.

Something utterly devastating has just happened to you. You feel like your world is falling apart. You’re hurt, overwhelmed, and in pain, and it’s terrifying. You don’t know what to do with your feelings. You don’t want to tell anyone for fear of appearing weak. You don’t want people’s pity, so if you do reach out, you skim the surface of what you’re experiencing, and slap it with a “I should be grateful though, it could be worse”, severely downplaying your current internal reality. And so, gratitude becomes the new name of avoidance, resistance, denial, self-betrayal, and self-criticism.

This “gratitude” promotes a hierarchy of suffering, and fuels the notion that human suffering and pain is to be classified. We use it to measure our worthiness of receiving love and compassion from others, isolating ourselves as a result, often deepening our pain.

As powerful as gratitude is, it needs to come after giving yourself the permission to simply be with your internal reality, because it is calling to be seen, heard, and deeply felt. There is no such thing as a hierarchy of suffering. Your pain is worthy of attention because it is real for you- it doesn’t come with conditions.

Give yourself permission to surrender to what is, and gratitude will unfold naturally, for authentic gratitude is a by-product of a healing heart.

Why Death is One of Our Greatest Teachers.

 

Living life with the end in mind is the most powerful route to personal freedom and authenticity.

I absolutely love the work I do. Companioning individuals as they grieve the loss of a loved one has been the most powerful, heart-wrenching, enlightening, and meaningful “work” I have done. Bearing witness to one’s stories of loss and heartache is an absolute honour and privilege, for I know that delving into the depths of one’s grief is the hardest thing one can ever do.

Doing this work has made death a constant companion. It’s ever-present reality in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that one day my life will end. At first, admitting this was terrifying. It evoked panic and a feeling of being trapped, with no hope of escape- and truthfully, it still does on some days. But, with loss comes forced reflection and subsequent insight.

It is for this insight I am extremely grateful for it has made clear to me that this life is a gift, never to be taken for granted. We are privileged to be here and to be given the opportunity to become the fullest expressions of who we are.

Here a few of the radical shifts/insights that have occurred in my life:

  • Everything is a miracle.

Living with death as an all too tangible reality renders everything and every experience miraculous. The “little things” become the “big things”, and material things lose their value. We also begin to recognize the mere chance by which we were granted this life, and as such we can see with greater clarity that we are not here by accident.

  • Gratitude expands

When we recognize life is a privilege, gratitude expands. Everything of which our life is composed becomes “thank you worthy.” We become grateful for what we have, and especially for the people who surround us. Death also allows us to become less inhibited, and simply say what’s in hearts. It becomes easier to declare our appreciation for the people we love, for we recognize that there may not be another chance.

  • Love and connection becomes all that matters.

Death makes love, and our expression of it, our highest priority. It becomes infused in everything that we do, in every choice we make, and in every interaction we have with others. It allows us to recognize that our attentive presence is what counts, for it through this attentive presence that our love is conveyed. It becomes about fully engaging with every single moment by acknowledging that time is a finite resource. We recognize that one’s time (an expression of love) is the most precious gift one can give another, for the giving of one’s life in this way, signals that the other matters-and that’s all we want to know at the end of the day anyway.

  • You are here to be the fullest expression of yourself.

Authenticity becomes fundamental. Death allows us to disengage from the (false) fear-based thoughts that so often limit us, thus allowing us to become the fullest expressions of ourselves- in an unapologetic way. We recognize that are here to learn, to teach, and ultimately, to expand. As such, living out our passion becomes essential to our personal sense of well-being.

 

Friends who Bring Coffee.

The Sunday morning hangover. Physically not feeling great, but running through all the events of the night before in my mind and thinking about how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. Experiences had and memories made. The stuff that makes life so incredible. I turn over and look at my phone…I see a message from my soul sister- one that I have known for a majority of my life. The one who I shared a good portion of my childhood with. The one who was there for the rough stuff, the lessons learned through all those awkward times, and the countless laughs over something that really, isn’t/wasn’t even that funny (to the rest of the world anyway).  The one who just knows without asking. She asks if I want to get together.

She comes over about an hour and a half later, with two coffees in hand, and we spend the next hour talking, like we hadn’t seen each other in years. There is an ease to it, and a comfort in the feeling that neither of us has to be anybody but who we are. Pure and raw authenticity informs our interaction, as it always does. There is an unconditional acceptance of the other that lies at the foundation of our friendship. There is a knowing that even if one of us was to screw up that the other would be right there saying “I got you.”

It got me thinking about the independence myth that seems to inform our society these days…the idea that we must be completely self-reliant, and self-sufficient or otherwise run the risk of being seen as weak or “needy.” The idea that dependence is inherently bad, and that if we depend on others it means that we have failed. It can make us feel that we can’t reach out, even if we desperately want to or need to, for fear of the judgement that might be laid upon us, or for fear of the judgement that we might lay upon ourselves.

But here’s the thing: humans are not wired for complete independence, and to buy into the notion that we are, is to significantly truncate the size of our lives. We thrive on connection. We are literally wired for it. The need for a sense of belonging is as essential to our wellbeing as food and water is.

We need to be dependent to be independent.

It is only through cultivating and maintaining connections with others that we are truly able to commit to what makes us shine. It is through knowing that we have people in our lives in front of whom we can show our authentic selves that we are truly able to risk, and reach beyond our comfort zone. We need to know that we have certain people in our lives who are 100% behind us to facilitate our personal expansion. Without having these people, the risks become too big and too fear provoking, because we run the risk of being completely shattered and deflated if the outcome is not favourable. We need these people in our lives to remind us that a failure or a mistake has absolutely no bearing on our worth and that we are still just as inherently valuable and lovable as we were before we fell on our face.

Life is not meant to be a solo journey.

If you’re about living big, seizing the moment, and living a life of greatness, nurture your connections. They will enable you to shine.

PS:  A note to express my deepest gratitude to all those in my life who have helped and continue to help me be the best that I can be. I love you all deeply, and am immensely grateful to you for accepting me exactly as I am without expecting anything else. You all have supported me in making necessary changes in my life, and have given me the courage to reach beyond what I thought possible. Thank you for being champions of my growth and success, and it is my deepest hope that you feel that I am the same for you. xo

Gratitude: A Love Note to Life.

Cottage

If you and I are friends on Facebook, you have probably seen one of my many gratitude lists. I write them frequently and typically with a sense of abandon… it is literally my soul on the page, summed up into words that always seem somewhat inadequate to express what I feel. An attempt to convey this seemingly inexplicable connection to life… to spirit… to goodness…to love. To express a  feeling of being nurtured, supported and fulfilled. An expression of the knowing that life, ultimately, has my back.

I’m not saying that bad and painful things do not and have not happened to me… they absolutely have. But, what I have found is that the intentional practice of gratitude allows me to better delve into my pain. It has provided me with a life preserver of sorts. A thread to grasp in moments of overwhelm and the seemingly unbearable. A consistent reassurance that there are moments of untainted good in the bad. Its reliability is empowering. It simply requires a commitment to the willingness to notice.

I started my intentional gratitude practice approximately two years ago, at a time of great emotional upheaval, and I can say that without a doubt that it was, and still is, one of the most powerful practices that has helped me on my journey of embracing a life of fearless authenticity. The practice has helped me to more purposefully engage with the now. It allows me to embrace the moment completely, dropping my worries of what is to come. It also has enabled me to form more authentic and meaningful relationships with others, because I’m more connected in the moment- attuned, engaged, and present with that person. Incredibly powerful stuff. Gratitude is no longer I feeling I experience only upon reflection… it now happens in that very moment.

Gratitude keeps us alert to the miraculous. 

The more intentional we are about it, the more we find to be grateful for. It radically shifts our focus. It transforms. It allows us to recognize the beauty that resides in every kind word, every compassionate action, every moment of laughter, every hug, every interaction, every moment of stillness, every gorgeous view. It reminds us that life is a privilege.

Suddenly, we begin to feel overwhelmingly abundant. Happier. More peaceful and at ease with life. Nourished. We begin to recognize the power that we each have to shape our lives.

Ultimately, we all hold the power to choose the lens we are going to wear.

And so, in the spirit of this post, I am inviting you to sit in some deep gratitude. I challenge you to name at least three things you are grateful for right now.  Claim it, state it, declare it. Don’t hold back.